(IMAGE 1, Alt text: Olympus underwater camera at Manta Rhei dive shop)
You’ve bought an underwater camera and underwater housing. After years of diving, you figured it?s time to start documenting what you see. Good choice. The underwater world is full of endless subjects. Whether you want to take photos of the beautiful nudibranchs, pygmy seahorse, fish, manta rays or the colourful corals you come across. We’re here to provide some tips so you can start shooting like a pro. So, let’s dive in!
Know your underwater equipment
It may seem like common sense, but the excitement of having a new underwater camera to take into the depths of the ocean might win you over. Yes, it’s an underwater camera but you can indeed use it on dry land. Practice taking photos of objects that may be similar to what you would be photographing underwater. Figure out your focus distance. Knowing the distance you need to be from your subject should be second nature.
For most underwater cameras, this range will be 1-2 inches to 2 feet. Any closer and you can’t take a photo. Further away and you will have to turn the macro mode off. Macro mode is one of the many settings your camera has and is used when taking photos of very small subjects. For macro photography, you may want to consider muck diving. It is a fantastic way to find and photograph tiny creatures on the seafloor. If you’re interested in learning more check out our blog linked above.
(IMAGE 2, Alt text: backside of underwater camera housing with buttons for adjusting settings)
Know your underwater camera settings
To better help you understand each of your camera’s modes, we recommend reading your camera’s manual. Knowing what each of these modes does and how to utilize them is important. The most commonly used mode is manual mode. In manual mode, you are able to adjust everything from the aperture size to the shutter speed. As you are just beginning in underwater photography, auto mode is a great place to start before you move on to manual mode. This usually comes later on, once you have a feel for what each mode provides you.
A lot of underwater housings do not allow you to change settings once in the water. Thinking ahead is key. Have an idea of what you would like to capture. You can and should set your camera up beforehand, adjusting to the settings you will need once below the surface. It is no fun fumbling with your camera settings (if the housing allows you to) as a manta ray passes above you. Those are the moments you would like to capture with ease. For most photos, you’ll want to be in macro mode. Learn how to turn the macro mode on and off.
(IMAGE 3 ,Alt text: underwater camera with strobe and grip attachment)
Press the shutter button more than you would think
Underwater photography is different; everything is always moving. It’s possible it will take hundreds of photos just to get that perfect one. The more photos you take, the more chances you have to get what you are hoping for. Even if you only get two good shots out of two hundred, it is important to note what you did right and repeat that. Also, remember why you are there. You’re learning a new skill and having fun seeing sea creatures along the way.
Use the flash
For subjects that are within 3-4ft, use your flash. Make sure your flash setting is set to forced flash rather than auto flash. Using the flash will add more colour to photos. This also keeps your photos from looking blue.
If you happen to be taking photos with the flash off, the subjects should be more than 3ft away. With the flash off you will be using the natural lighting, also known as ambient light; an important note of using your flash. If you are too far from the subject (for example, 3-4ft away) and you have your flash on, the flash will reflect off of particles in the water causing what is known as backscatter. You want to avoid this at all costs.
(IMAGE 4, Alt text: strobe with the power button and brightness controls)
Use a strobe
If you are willing to buy a strobe – do it. A strobe will introduce light from a different angle, further reducing backscatter. This will also give your picture better lighting, thus bringing more life into your photo.
Get close and personal
The closer you are, the better your colour, contrast, and sharpness will be. Try to fill the frame with your subject. You can make a shot more interesting by picking a contrasting background. When shooting, make sure you are on the same level of the subject or shooting upwards. Doing so will make the most out of the ambient lighting. Make eye contact with your subject. Eyes are a very strong aspect of the photo. You’d much rather see the eyes of a subject than its back end.
Take care of your equipment
If the housing and o-rings are not taken care of properly, it will eventually flood on a dive and possibly ruin the perfect shot you were about to take. Before eagerly taking your camera out of the underwater housing after a dive, you will want to get your hands on some freshwater. Rinse the underwater housing while the camera is still in it. Push all the buttons and turn all of the knobs while doing so to be sure all the salt has been flushed out. Once thoroughly rinsed and dried, you can take out your camera and inspect all your stunning photos from the day. Don’t forget to also check the maintenance recommendations in your camera’s manual.
Always try to learn more
The more you get to experiment with underwater photography the more you are going to learn. We are glad to have been able to help kickstart this new adventure of yours. As you build up your album of underwater photos you will be able to see your progression as an underwater photographer. Now you should have an idea of where to begin.
We hope we provided some essential knowledge to kick start your underwater photography.? Feel free to share some of your favourite shots with us on our Facebook page!